What Lisa Watched Last Night #167: The Killing Pact (dir by John Lyde)


Last night, I watched The Killing Pact on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!  Y’all know that I can’t resist a Lifetime movie, especially one that has the word “killing” in the title.  At the very least, I figured The Killing Pact would feature the over the top melodrama and tasteful interior design that we’ve all come to expect from Lifetime movies.

(That said, The Killing Pact was advertised as being a premiere but, actually, it aired on the Lifetime Movie Network last month.  I DVR’d it when it first aired but I hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet.  By watching it on Lifetime last night, I was able to clear a little more space on my DVR.  Yay!)

 What Was It About?

Strangers In An Uber!

Strangers In A Train Without The Train!

Take your pick, they’re both adequate descriptions of what was going on in The Killing Pact.  When Hayley (Emily Rose), a single mother and Uber driver, gives a ride to two weirdos (Melanie Stone and Brandon Ray Olive), she is drawn into an unexpected situation.  It turns out that all three of them have people in their lives that they wish were dead.  So, why not agree to a killing pact?  At first, Hayley thinks it’s all a joke but then her sleazy loser of an ex-husband is brutally murdered.  Hayley’s new friends have kept their end of the bargain.  Now, it’s time for Hayley to do her part…

What Worked?

I liked the look of the film.  Almost every scene was drenched in this moody, overcast atmosphere and, as a result, the film was almost always interesting to look at, even if the plot didn’t always work.  There was one scene — of Hayley pulling up in front of a cheap motel — that I thought was especially well put together.  The dark clouds, the wet pavement, the dilapidated motel — the whole scene was full of menace.

What Did Not Work?

For the most part, this film just didn’t work for me.  At first, I was a little confused as to why the movie was doing so little for me but, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the film just moved way too slowly, especially for a movie that was frequently interrupted by commercials.  The typical Lifetime film has 8 acts.  That means that, over the course of a typical Lifetime movie, there are at least 7 cliffhangers, all designed to make you stick around through the commercials so you can see what happens during the 8th act.  The Killing Pact, however, felt more like a three or four act movie.  There was no forward momentum to hold your interest even through the commercial breaks.  The film’s pacing was definitely off and Lifetime films are all about maintaining a steady pace.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

One of the murders involved an autocratic theater producer.  It reminded me of all the murders that nearly occurred during a community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors that I was once involved with.

Lessons Learned

Pacing is everything!

What Lisa Watched Last Night #166: Daughter For Sale (dir by Farhad Mann)


Last night, I turned on Lifetime and I watched Daughter for Sale!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the main reason was because the film was on Lifetime and I always enjoy live tweeting Lifetime films.  There’s a strong community of Lifetime live tweeters.  We all appreciate Canadian location shooting and unapologetic melodrama.

Add to that, Daughter For Sale is a great title.  When you see that a movie is called Daughter for Sale, you really have no choice but to watch.

What Was It About?

Annalise O’Neil (Emily Rose) is a newly appointed judge.  We know this because 50% of her dialogue consists of her telling people, “I’m a judge.”  She also lives in a house that is almost totally made of glass.  Seriously, it’s all windows and there’s no privacy.

Anyway, when the movie starts, she’s celebrating being a judge by throwing a party at her glass house.  When she tells her teenage daughter, Carly (Emily Tennant), to put on a pink dress and come downstairs to the party, Carly responds by cutting the dress into pieces and then sneaking out of the house.  Somehow, nobody notices her running away, despite the fact that the house is almost all window.

Anyway, Carly wanders around Vancouver for a while and then ends up getting kidnapped by a human trafficking ring that is operated by a pretend do-gooder named John Gallant (Antonio Cupo).  Working with a whiny, leather jacket-wearing detective named Derek (Chris Kalhoon), Annalise searches for her missing daughter.  (Her search basically consists of approaching random people and saying, “I’m a judge.”)  Will Annalise and Whiny Detective Man be able to find Carly before she’s sold to the highest bidder?

What Worked?

Particularly for a Lifetime film, Daughter For Sale looked really good.  The shadowy cinematography created the perfect sense of menace.  The warehouse that Carly was kept in was pure nightmare fuel.  We tend to take production design for granted but the people responsible for the look of Daughter for Sale outdid themselves.

Emily Tennant did a pretty good job as Carly. (Remarkably, despite spending about a month in a dirty old warehouse, Carly’s hair and makeup remained perfect throughout the entire movie.)  Antonio Cupo was properly sleazy as the bad guy.  I enjoyed the way the film contrasted Gallant’s public image with the monstrous reality of who he truly was.

What Did Not Work?

“I’m a judge.”  Yes, we know, Analise!  You don’t have to mention it every two minutes!  You being a judge certainly isn’t going to get your daughter out of that warehouse…

This was one of those films where everyone continually switched from being super competent to being super stupid, depending on what was necessary for the scene.  Analise, in particular, was always either a genius or the most naive jurist in history.  Meanwhile, John Gallant was able to run a halfway house, a charity, and an international sex trafficking ring but he wasn’t smart enough to hide the incriminating evidence in his office.  If you’re going to send a thug to beat up a judge, it might be smart to not allow yourself to then be seen, in public, hanging out with the exact same thug.  Or, at least, that’s the way it would seem to me.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“I’m a judge!”

No, actually, I’m not.  But if I was, I would probably remind everyone every chance I got as well.

Lessons Learned

She’s a judge!

What Else Lisa Watched Last Night #166: Seduced By A Stranger (dir by Scott Belyea)


Secrets of My Stepdaughter was not the only thing that I watched last night!  I also watched Seduced By A Stranger on the Lifetime Movie Network.

Why Was I Watching It?

When a movie is called Seduced By A Stranger, you watch it.  Seduced is one of the most powerful words in the English language.  I even tried to get Arleigh to call this site Through the Seduced Lens but he ended up going with Shattered instead.

(Which is okay because shattered is almost as powerful word as seduced.  Someday, Lifetime will realize that I’m right and commission a film called Shattered Seduction.  I’m already working on the script.)

What Was It About?

It’s about a woman who is seduced by a stranger.

Actually, there’s a little more to it than just that.  In fact, it’s actually a movie about a teenager named Dana (Cate Sproule) and her good-for-nothing (but charming) father named Martin (Steve Bacic).  Because Martin is a professional con man, Dana and Martin have never stayed in one place for too long.  Dana feels like she’s missing out on life.

So, Martin agrees to settle down in a nice little town.  Dana finally gets to enroll in high school.  She even meets a cute boy named Charlie (Madison Smith) and soon, they’re a couple.  However, Martin is also dating Charlie’s mother (Chandra West) and Dana is worried that her father is going to slip back into his old ways.

And, of course, there’s the stalker.  Sloane (Lucie Guest) lost everything to one of Martin’s cons and she’s determined to get her revenge.  Now that Martin has settled down in one place, it looks like she may finally get her chance…

What Worked?

This one was a lot of fun and actually kind of sweet in its own weird way.  Charlie and Dana were a really likable couple and you hoped that things would work out for them.  Both Cate Sproule and Madison Smith gave good performances and it was kind of nice to see a Lifetime film where, for once, the teenagers were alright and the adults were totally clueless.

Lucie Guest did a good job as crazy Sloane.  The best role in any Lifetime film is always the obsessive stalker and Guest really made the most of the opportunity.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.  It was fun and enjoyable Lifetime film.  The only thing that kept it from being perfect was that there was no kitchen dance party.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

When someone says that Dana has stolen Charlie’s heart, Dana instinctively responds with, “I don’t steal.”  For some reason, I related to that moment.

(I know that’s vague but identifying an “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment is not an exact science.)

Lessons Learned

Sometimes, being seduced by a stranger is the best thing that can happen to you.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #165: Secrets of my Stepdaughter (dir by Jem Garrard)


Last night, I watched Secrets of my Stepdaughter on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why Not?  It was on Lifetime and Secrets of my Stepdaughter is a great title.  As our regular readers know, Jeff, Leonard, and I spent all last month watching and reviewing the first two seasons on Twin Peaks.  As soon as I saw the title of this Lifetime film, I immediately thought of that great line from the third episode of series: “She is full of secrets.”

What Was It About?

When teenager Rachel Kent (Tiera Skovbye) survives a robbery that leaves her best friend dead, she becomes a minor media celebrity.  Everyone loves Rachel but the detective (Lucia Walters) in charge of the case has suspicions.  And soon, so does Rachel’s stepmother, Cindy (Josie Davis).  Rachel is just enjoying being a celebrity too much and when Cindy catches Rachel rehearsing the story of the robbery in front of a mirror, Cindy starts to suspect that Rachel may indeed be full of secrets.

What Worked?

The film told an intriguing story.  It opened with a title card telling us that it was “based on a true story” and I’d believe it.  This is actually something that happens fairly regularly.  A victim of a crime will become a minor celebrity, just to then have it revealed that they actually committed the crime themselves.  People love the attention.  What’s interesting is that you never hear much about these people once it’s revealed that they were not victims but instead guilty.  They kind of get pushed to the side and the story gets abandoned because no one wants to admit to having been fooled.

Josie Davis gave a good performance as Cindy.  She’s appeared in several Lifetime films and it was interesting to see her finally play a sympathetic character for once.  The entire film, however, was stolen by Tiera Skovbye, who was a force of cheerfully destructive nature in the role of Rachel.

What Did Not Work?

This was yet another Lifetime film where the family pet is killed off, presumably so we don’t have any doubt that we’re dealing with a total sociopath.  Killing the dog felt so cruelly unnecessary and totally gratuitous that it made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the movie.  It seemed to be done for shock value but, at this point, so many pets have been killed in so many Lifetime movies that it’s no longer shocking.

Seriously, leave the pets alone!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“Wow, Lisa, since this movie was about a sociopathic, shoplifting teenage murderer, there were probably a lot of Oh my God!  Just like me! moments!”

Okay, you are no longer my friend.

Actually, to be honest, I did relate to Rachel at the very beginning of the movie.  When she was rehearsing in front of the mirror, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I do that too.  But then it became obvious that she actually had killed her best friend and the family dog and I was like, “Nope, I have nothing in common with this psycho!”

Lessons Learned

It’s a lot more difficult to fake a crime than you might think.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #164: Running Away (dir by Brian Skiba)


After I watched Deadly Sorority, I watched the second Lifetime premiere of the night, Running Away!

Why Was I Watching It?

I nearly missed Running Away, which would have been a shame.  After being disappointed with Deadly Sorority, I was seriously tempted to go down to my neighbor’s 3-day Cinco de Mayo party.  But, somehow, my cinematic instincts knew that I should take the time to watch Running Away.  I’m glad that I did because Running Away is one of the best Lifetime films of the years so far.

What Was it About?

Peg (Paula Tricky) is a single mother, struggling to raise two rebellious daughters even as the bank attempts to take her home away from her.  However, salvation comes in the form of Richard (William McNamara).  Richard is never quite clear about what he does for a living but he’s rich.  He has a great (and big) house.  He drives a red sports car and has no problem about honking the horn at people crossing the street and shouting, “Yeah, you better be watching!”  He’s more than a little creepy but he appears to worship the ground that Peg walks on.  Add to that, when he asks her to marry him, he gives her a really nice ring.

After the wedding, Peg’s two daughters have differing reactions to Richard.  The youngest, Lizzie (Madison Lee Brown), loves their new home and decides that Richard isn’t as bad or as creepy as he originally seemed.  Maggie (Holly Deveaux) knows that Richard is a creepy perv, the type who walks in on her when she’s in the shower and who, when he discovers that she’s been drinking beer, uses the knowledge for sexual blackmail.  Being molested and abused by her stepfather, Maggie resorts first to self-harm and then to running away.

Maggie finds herself living with a drug dealer and his traumatized girlfriend.  Both Richard and Peg are searching for her but both have different plans for what to do when they find her.

What Worked?

I know that the plot probably sounds extremely melodramatic and, in a way, I guess it was.  But, that’s okay.  This is a film that used melodrama to make a very real and important point about the consequences of abuse.  This a very well-done and very heartfelt film.

It took me a while to recognize William McNamara, who gives an all-too realistic performance as the monstrous Richard.  When we first meet Richard, the film wisely plays up his dorkiness.  We know he’s a bad guy but we’re still shocked by just how bad and dangerous he ultimately turns out to be.  Paula Trickey also does a good as Peg, portraying her with a combination of regret, disillusionment, and, as the same time, a cautious hope for the future.  However, the film really belongs to Holly Deveaux, who gives an empathetic and compelling performance of Maggie, one that reveals both her pain and her inner strength.

What Did Not Work?

I have to admit that, towards the end of the film, I kind of rolled my eyes when one final secret about Richard was revealed.  At that point, he was already such a bad guy that revealing the reason why he was so rich felt like overkill.  Other than that, though, I would say that the entire films worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

As someone who was an angry, rebellious, and often self-destructive teenager, I related to Maggie.  Holly Deveaux’s performance captured all of the emotions.  Though the whole movie, I was cringing as I had flashbacks to all the times that I was tempted to get on a bus and go wherever it took me.

(Seriously, for about a year and a half, I had this ludicrously romanticized fantasy about getting on a bus, traveling to random towns, and spending a year filling up my notebooks with my thoughts on America.  After I talked about it one too many times, my sister Megan drove me down to the Greyhound station in downtown Dallas and we spent an hour watching people get on and off buses.  The sights and the smells — well, mostly the smells — of actual bus living pretty much ended that fantasy.)

Lessons Learned

You can’t run away from your problems but you can beat them over the head with a baseball bat.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #163: Deadly Sorority (dir by Shawn Tolleson)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Deadly Sorority!

Why Was I Watching It?

You have to give the people at Lifetime some credit.  I often give them a hard time for the way that they retitle movies to give them more of a “Lifetime-y” feel but Deadly Sorority is a perfect title.  According to the imdb, this movie was originally called Undergrad Nightmare.  Deadly Sorority is such an improvement that I don’t even know where to begin.  It was enough to convince me to watch.

(Of course, I would have watched anyway because the movie was on Lifetime but, for the purpose of this review format, let’s pretend like the title was the sole reason.)

What Was It About?

Sam (Greer Grammer) and Kris (Emilija Branac) have been BFFs since high school but, once they arrive at Barclay University, things start to change.  Kris gets accepted into an exclusive sorority and soon, her new “sisters” are telling Sam to stay away.  When Kris is murdered, Sam suddenly finds herself as the number one suspect.  Everyone says that Sam was obsessed with Kris and jealous over her new friends.

In order to prove her innocence, Sam is going to have to catch the real murderer.  Was it Kris’s frat boy boyfriend?  Was it the lecherous professor or his wife?  Was it the creepy guy who lives upstairs from her?  Was it one of Kris’s sorority sisters?  Was it … well, actually, that’s all the suspects.  It’s a small school.

What Worked?

I absolutely loved Barclay University, which was located up in the mountains, had nice, big dorm rooms (during my first year of college, I lived in a dorm that didn’t even have air conditioning), and — as far as I could tell — only three or four professors.  There weren’t many students either.  Sam and Kris’s history class only had about 12 students in it.  As someone who hated the anonymous feeling of being one of many students in a gigantic lecture hall, I appreciated that.

The sorority was effectively creepy.  However…

What Did Not Work?

…the sorority itself really didn’t figure much into the plot.  There were a few effective scenes of all of the sisters staring at Sam dismissively but otherwise, the sorority was just a big, pink-clad red herring.  Deadly Sorority is a great title but Undergrad Nightmare was actually a more accurate title.  Usually, I don’t mind a misleading title but, when you promise a deadly sorority, you need to deliver.

The identity of the murderer also felt a bit random to me.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Sam, who had a wonderfully snarky attitude and said whatever was on her mind.  Unlike Sam, I was actually invited to join a sorority but I turned them down because I was busy being a nonconformist.  I kind of regret that choice because, according to what I’ve seen on Lifetime, joining a sorority would have led to several years of adventure and melodrama.  At the very least, I would have had a few hundred more closets to borrow from.

Oh well!

Lessons Learned

I should have applied to Barclay University.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #162: Manny Dearest (dir by Chad Krowchuk)


Last night, as thunder rumbled outside and the skies were lit up by lighting, I curled up on the couch and I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Manny Dearest!

Why Was I Watching It?

A Canadian film called Manny Dearest?  As soon as I saw the title, I assumed that it had to be a sequel to Degrassi: The Next Generation, one that would follow Manny Santos as she searched for love and success in Hollywood.

(Before you say that was a silly assumption on my part, just consider the number of Degrassi actors who regularly appear on the Lifetime network.)

Anyway, it turned out that I was wrong but I was already live-tweeting the movie so I kept watching.

What Was It About?

Karen (Ashely Scott) needs someone to help watch her two sons.  Alex (Mitch Ryan) is a male nanny, otherwise known as a manny.  Now, if this was a Hallmark film, Karen and Alex would fall in love and Alex would end up dumping her fiancée, a recovering alcoholic named Greg (Woody Jeffreys).  But, since this is a Lifetime film, Alex turns out to be just a little crazy.  Not only does he become obsessed with Karen and plot to get Greg out of the picture but he also teaches Karen’s sons some questionable lessons about how to deal with bullies.

What Worked?

This was actually one of the better Lifetime films that I’ve seen this year.  Yes, it was obvious that Alex was going to turn out to be crazy but that’s Lifetime.  When you sit down to watch a Lifetime movie, you know that the nanny is always going to turn out to be crazy.  It would have been a betrayal of the audience to not have Alex turn out to be just a little insane.

Mitch Ryan did an excellent job playing Alex.  Even though he was crazy and a murderer and he regularly drugged other people, Alex was still strangely likable.  Last night, the majority of twitter was Team Alex.  We especially enjoyed it when he scared the Hell out of a bully who was giving Karen’s son a hard time.  Take that, bully!  Add to that, Alex cooked, he did the dishes, he cleaned the house, and, whenever he showed up at the house at 3 in the morning, he was very careful about not waking anyone up.

My favorite character was Cori (Jordan Largy), a single mother who took one look at Alex and decided that she liked what she saw.  The thing I liked about Cori is that she always said exactly what was on her mind and she didn’t let anything hold her back.  Cori was the type of person who, when she brought her daughters over to play with Karen’s sons, greeted Alex by saying, “We thought we’d come by for a quickie.”

At this point, it’s a bit of a cliché for me to praise a Lifetime film for taking place in a nice house but, seriously, Karen had a really nice house.

What Did Not Work?

I guess some people would say that it was a problem that the villain was a hundred times more likable than the people he was menacing but not me.  This is was a fun and entertaining Lifetime movie.  As far as I’m concerned, it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

At one point, when Alex tells Cori that he’s not interested, Cori responds with, “Your loss.”  I once said the same thing while breaking up with someone and I felt good about myself for a whole month afterward.

Lessons Learned

I like to think that, between watching Degrassi and Lifetime films like this one, I’ve learned a good deal about Canada.  For me, the most Canadian moment of Manny Dearest came when the police approached Alex and, despite having guns, did not open fire on him.  Restraint, it’s very Canadian.

Love you, Canada!